International Disability Rights News Service
Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights, self-determination
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.

Thursday, September 23, 2004
Year V, Edition 1010

Today's front section features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the "Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this section for 50 more news items.

"We in the disability community are tired of being pushed aside when it's the lives of people in our own community that are on the line."

--From a statement by the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, responding to the Florida Supreme Court's decision that the law keeping Terri Schiavo alive is unconstitutional (First story)

"It’s important to remind ourselves that people with disabilities are not passive consumers of help, but active and innovative problem solvers."
--Secretary Tom Ridge, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, speaking Wednesday at the first Conference on Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities (Second story)



Florida Supreme Court Rules "Terri's Law" Is Unconstitutional;
Disability Advocates Disappointed But Resolved To Continue Legal Battle

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 23, 2004

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA--The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the law keeping Terri Schiavo alive for the past year violates the state Constitution's separation of powers.

Supporters of Terri's parents, who do not want her to starve to death, expressed disappointment at the decision, but resolved to continue the fight to keep her alive.

In its unanimous decision, the court wrote that "it is without question an invasion of the authority of the judicial branch for the Legislature to pass a law that allows the executive branch to interfere with the final judicial determination in a case. That is precisely what occurred here and for that reason the Act is unconstitutional as applied to Theresa Schiavo."

"We are not insensitive to the struggle that all members of Theresa’s family have endured since she fell unconscious in 1990," Chief Justice Barbara Pariente wrote. "However, we are a nation of laws and we must govern our decisions by the rule of law and not by our own emotions."

"What is in the Constitution always must prevail over emotion."

The court did not address claims by Michael Schiavo, who wants his wife's feeding tube removed, that "Terri's Law" violated her privacy.

The Florida Legislature passed the quickly-written law on October 21, 2003, giving Governor Jeb Bush specific authority to order Terri's feeding tube replaced just six days after it had been removed under an earlier court order.

Mr. Schiavo, who is also Terri's guardian, immediately sued the governor, accusing Bush and the Legislature of violating her privacy by interfering with what he claims are Terri's wishes. He said that his wife told him, before her collapse, that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".

Terri was 26 years old in February 1990 when she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes. Some doctors have testified that she is now in a "persistent vegetative state", that she cannot interact with her environment, that she does not feel pain, and that she will not recover.

Her parents disagree. Bob and Mary Schindler have argued that she is alert, laughs and tries to talk to them, and could benefit from therapies that her husband has refused to allow. They argue that Mr. Schiavo should be removed as her guardian because he has a conflict of interest and is engaged to a woman with whom he has fathered two children.

Seventeen disability-related groups filed a brief supporting Governor Jeb Bush and Terri's parents in the case. They have said that the case is important to millions of people with disabilities who are represented by guardians.

"The court in this case has obviously put the constitutional principle of separation of powers over the individual's right to due process," wrote Diane Coleman, president of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, in a press statement. "The court is more interested in protecting its turf than the people that occupy that turf."

"The dispute between her spouse and parents about whether Terri would have wanted her food and water discontinued has the potential to impact millions of lives," the Not Dead Yet statement read.

"We in the disability community are tired of being pushed aside when it's the lives of people in our own community that are on the line."

Bush's attorneys have 10 days to file an appeal with the court. One said they might consider taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a press statement, Terri's family thanked the governor and the Legislature.

"We are pursuing other legal avenues which we hope will save Terri's life," the statement read.

Last week, the Schindlers filed a 28-page memorandum of law citing "a substantial change in circumstances that the court must consider" in deciding whether to set aside the 2000 order that originally gave Mr. Schiavo permission to have his wife's food and water withdrawn.

The Schindlers were referring to a March 2004 address by Pope John Paul II, in which he said that giving food and water always represents "a natural means of preserving life" and that its use should be considered "ordinary and proportionate and as such morally obligatory."

Jeb Bush v. Michael Schiavo (Supreme Court of Florida via FindLaw)
"Disability Groups Angered by Schiavo Ruling" (Not Dead Yet)
Not Dead Yet
Terri Schiavo's Right To Live (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)



Secretary Ridge Asks People With Disabilities To Get Involved In Emergency Planning

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 23, 2004

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA--Tom Ridge, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, encouraged people with disabilities Wednesday to become actively involved in efforts to prepare their neighborhoods, homes and workplaces to be ready to respond to emergencies.

Ridge was keynote speaker at the nation's first Conference on Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities.

"It’s important to remind ourselves that people with disabilities are not passive consumers of help, but active and innovative problem solvers," Ridge told attendees at the conference, organized by National Capital Region with support of DHS and the National Organization on Disability.

"While all Americans face difficulties during emergencies, people with disabilities and their families face a number of unique and difficult challenges," he said.

"The problem that this population group face shed a great deal of light on many related difficulties. But more importantly, the solutions that people with disabilities propose can help so many others. The energy and determination and skills that people with disabilities bring to these issues are a huge asset to our nation's broader emergency preparedness effort."

Ridge pointed out that earlier this summer, President Bush signed an Executive Order ensuring that people with disabilities are included in the emergency planning process, along with an Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and People with Disabilities, which Ridge's department is chairing.

"It is a sweeping and important statement of the official policy of the federal government, and one that I hope that all who work in the emergency preparedness field will take seriously," he explained.

The three-day conference features other federal and state speakers, including U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response Michael D. Brown, who oversees the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Full House, Inspiring Keynote from Ridge, and Pledges to Work Together (National Organization on Disability)
Remarks by Tom Ridge at Conference on Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities (Dept. of Homeland Security)



Feds Tout "Understanding" With Kentucky Over State-Run Facility;
State Says Institution Will Be A "Model" For Others

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 23, 2004

SOMERSET, KENTUCKY--The U.S. Department of Justice has come up with what is being called a "ground-breaking" measure to protect the civil rights of people housed in a Kentucky institution.

It's not financial penalties, threats of closure, or even federal monitoring.

It's a "Memorandum of Understanding".

The Justice Department and Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services announced the agreement Wednesday regarding the treatment of the 300 people with developmental disabilities housed at Communities of Oakwood.

The agreement resolves a DOJ investigation finalized in November 2002, that was launched a year earlier, over reports of abuse and inadequate care going back to the middle of 2000.

According to a press statement from Governor Ernie Fletcher, the memorandum sets out details of the state's plan to "continue making improvements at Oakwood". The Justice Department agreement, which will not require any court intervention or federal supervision, is considered "the first of its kind for a facility like Oakwood".

The memorandum will expire in four years. It could be pulled by federal officials if the state fails to make the agreed upon improvements. An independent consultant will monitor the progress and report the findings to the Justice Department.

David Fleenor, general counsel for Health and Family Services, told the Courier-Journal that the state's plan would "not only will get us in compliance, but will move beyond that ultimately to make this place a model."

On October 11, 2000, the Herald-Leader reported that the state-run facility was in danger of losing its Medicaid funding because it failed to protect its residents from harm. State inspectors cited the facility for separate incidents in which residents were assaulted by staff members. In one case, two employees were seen repeatedly stomping on the head of a resident until she lost consciousness. In another, a staff member was seen pushing a resident's head into a shower wall. In still another, an employee was reported to have pushed, slapped and verbally abused one resident on a daily basis for four months.

A year later, another former worker was accused of punching a resident in the stomach.

Some employees who witnessed the abuse said they did not report several incidents because they had been threatened by other staff members to keep quiet.

The November 2002 report cited the facility for a pattern of medical neglect at the facility, including an unusually large number of "bowel and bladder disorders". Autopsy reports of residents who died while at Oakwood indicated they all had dilated colons from bowel obstructions. The facility also failed to provide adequate mental health services, and relied too heavily on physical and chemical restraints to control "high-risk behavioral problems".

Several residents who had indicated they wanted to move out into the community were still housed in Oakwood, even though their planning teams agreed they were "ready for community placement". A June 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, known commonly as the "Olmstead decision", stated that "unnecessarily" institutionalizing people with disabilities violates their federal rights under the Americans with Disability Act.

Advocates with Kentucky's Protection and Advocacy System have called for Oakwood, which was built in 1972, to be down-sized or entirely dismantled.

"Health and Family Services, DOJ, Announce Agreement On Oakwood" (Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services)
Investigation of the Oakwood Developmental Center (U.S. Department of Justice -- November 7, 2002)
"Care at Oakwood inadequate; suit possible" (Courier-Journal -- November 15, 2002)



Senator Urges Officials To Provide Accessible Parking At Federal Buildings
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 23, 2004

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA--Disability rights advocates in Nevada want federal officials to look at ways to provide accessible parking at federal buildings in the state while keeping them safe from terrorist attacks.

The advocates appear to have found an ally in Senator John Ensign.

"I believe that the federal government should lead by example and accommodate individuals with disabilities to ensure equal access to federal facilities," Ensign wrote Wednesday to Stephen Perry, the head of the federal General Services Administration. "To do otherwise would effectively deny tax-paying citizens the ability to access taxpayer-owned federal buildings and their representatives."

None of the federal buildings in Nevada have parking that is accessible and convenient for people with disabilities. In some instances, people with disabilities that affect their mobility are forced to park several blocks away.

Officials with the GSA, which oversees building and maintenance of federal buildings across the country, say that new homeland security measures only allow federal employees to park in federal building parking areas.

Nevadans for Equal Access and the Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center have been working to bring the issue to the attention of the public and lawmakers.

Senator Ensign is suggesting that GSA officials look at ways to maintain security while making minor accommodations, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

"I believe that it is reasonable to ask that disabled individuals, with appropriate permits, be given access to available accessible parking spaces," Ensign said.

"Clearly it would be reasonable to require these individuals to undergo vehicle screening that is required of federal building employees who utilize the parking lots."

"Ensign seeks parking for disabled at fed buildings" (Las Vegas Sun)
"Handicapped access battle lost at federal buildings, just starting with buses" (Las Vegas Review-Journal -- July 5, 2004)



"Dining in the dark in Paris"

September 23, 2004

PARIS, FRANCE--The following four paragraphs are excerpts from an Associated Press story published Thursday:

This is dining in the dark, the concept of a new restaurant in the City of Light that wants diners to know what it's like to be blind.

At "Dans le Noir" -- In the Dark -- it's not just that the lights are off and curtains closed. Diners sit in a room of inky blackness that the eyes never adjust to. And that's the idea.

"It awakens your other senses," says the restaurant's owner Edouard de Broglie, who is not blind. "It alters your perspective, your relations with others. It shows what happens when you can't see."

The restaurant comes amid a growing effort to make Paris -- which is bidding for the 2012 Olympic Games -- more handicapped-friendly.

Entire article:
"Dining in the dark in Paris" (Associated Press via CNN)
"Hushed reception for the Café des Signes" (The Guardian -- June 9, 2003),3604,973593,00.html



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# EXTRA! From the IDE Archives -- Two years ago:

"Confessed Cop Killer" Gets New Hearing
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 23, 2002

MIAMI, FLORIDA--A man who was convicted after confessing to the 1990 murder of a sheriff's deputy might get a new trial because another man has confessed to the same crime.

Timothy Brown, 26, has been serving a life sentence for shooting to death Broward County Deputy Patrick Behan in his patrol car outside a convenience store. Brown had confessed to killing Behan after waiving his right to have an attorney present while he was being questioned. Brown's confession was the only evidence submitted by prosecutors during his 1993 trial.

Brown later said that he had confessed only after Broward County sheriff's deputies threatened, manipulated, pressured and even struck him.

But last year, former corrections officer Andrew Johnson confessed to killing Behan. Johnson told undercover agents that he had meant to kill another officer but ended up killing Behan by mistake.

Two weeks ago, a U.S. District Judge decided to grant Brown a hearing, ruling that a reasonable jury would not have convicted Brown after hearing the evidence against Johnson.

During the hearing Monday Brown's original trial lawyer, Larry Davis, said his client could not have read nor understood his Constitutional rights, including the right to have an attorney present during his interrogation. Brown, who was 14 at the time, reportedly had an IQ of 56. Most experts believe that a person with an IQ score below 70 has mental retardation.

The presiding judge questioned the detectives' interviewing techniques, according to a story from the Miami Herald.

This is not the first time Broward County detectives have been criticized for their investigative techniques.

Last year, Jerry Frank Townsend was released from prison after spending 22 years behind bars for a series of rapes and murders he did not commit. DNA evidence cleared Townsend of the crimes, even though he had confessed to Broward County Sheriff's deputies. His defenders said that detectives had taken advantage of Townsend, who reportedly scored 60 on IQ tests, calling him a "human parrot" who would tell detectives anything they wanted to hear.

"New phase opens in effort to overturn Behan case conviction" (Miami Herald)
"Jerry Frank Townsend Cleared Of Murders" (Inclusion Daily Express)


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